East Coasters know that the oft-traveled Boston/New York/Washington D.C. route can be a pricey one whether you take a car, plane, train or bus. Travelers who opt to drive between the cities in an effort to save money may now be rethinking that option considering fluctuating gas prices and the maddening traffic jams that are common along the way. In addition, heated competition among JetBlue, Delta and American Airlines has made flying a much more affordable option. Here we outline five ways to travel to the cities, including the cost, travel time, and pros and cons of each.
Who: Delta Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue offer shuttle service between the three cities.
Cities Served: Boston, New York and Washington D.C.
Cost: On the Delta shuttle from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Boston’s Logan Airport, the lowest roundtrip fare we found was $365.40, including taxes, with advance purchase. American Airlines offered the exact same fare for similar dates. JetBlue proved to be a much cheaper option; on the dates we checked, JetBlue offered flights out of New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport starting at $141.40 roundtrip with taxes.
The shuttle service from LaGuardia to Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport was $361.40 roundtrip on Delta’s shuttle. Flights for the same itinerary started at $339.90 roundtrip on American. Cheaper options were available from JFK to Dulles International Airport; JetBlue flights started at $164.40 roundtrip with taxes, and Delta’s non-shuttle started at $219.40 roundtrip with taxes. Delta also flies from JFK to Reagan National from $219.40, including taxes and fees.
Delta has no designated Washington/Boston shuttle, but offers fares from Baltimore/Washington International Airport to Logan (with a stop) from $205.80 roundtrip with taxes. American does offer a shuttle from Reagan, which came in at $219.40 roundtrip with taxes on the dates we selected. JetBlue flies from Dulles to Logan from $159.40 with taxes.
Please note that fares vary dramatically based on availability and on the date and time of your flight.
Travel Time: Depending on your route, a nonstop flight can last anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, not including travel time to and from the airport or check-in.
- Many departures. All three airlines have departures all day long, but you may pay more for prime time. Less expensive fares can sometimes be found early in the morning or late in the evening.
- You’ll earn frequent flier miles.
- No traffic (except getting to and from the airport).
- If you’re traveling on one of the shuttle services, dedicated ticket counters at the airports make check-in a breeze.Cons:
- American and Delta shuttles operate from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the least convenient of the city’s three airports if you are planning to go to Manhattan via public transportation. However, it is the closest airport, and the least expensive to travel to and from if you plan to take a taxi or car service.
- Finding the best fare can be time-consuming with so many possible airport combinations, particularly if you’re flying between New York and D.C. — each served by three airports.
Who: Amtrak offers both Acela Express and regional service between the three cities plus Philadelphia.
Cities Served: There are a number of weekday Acela Express round-trips between Washington D.C. and New York, as well as several weekday round-trips between Boston, New York and Washington. Weekend service runs approximately once every hour between New York and Washington D.C. and less frequently from Boston.
Cost: The lowest fare found on Acela Express was $198 roundtrip from New York to Boston, and $98 roundtrip on the slower regional service. From Washington D.C. to Boston, we found $314 roundtrip on Acela and $140 roundtrip on the regional train. Between Washington D.C. and New York, we found $278 roundtrip on Acela and $98 roundtrip on the regional train.
Travel Time: For Acela Express service, plan on about three hours between Washington D.C. and New York, about seven hours between Washington D.C. and Boston, and about three and a half hours between New York and Boston. For regional trains, add an additional 30 – 60 minutes, depending on your route. Click here for the Acela Express and Northeast Regional timetable.
- On Acela Express, “Quiet Cars” make for a comfortable and peaceful ride, and conference tables and power outlets allow passengers who wish to work to do so easily. An onboard bistro offers several food and beverage options.
- The train stations in each city are easily accessible from other points in the city.
- For travelers concerned with the environmental impact of their travel, trains are the most eco-friendly option.Cons:
- Regional trains are much less luxurious than the Acela Express, and they stop more frequently.
- With the abundance of flight options, taking the train may prove both more expensive and more time-consuming than flying.
Who: Greyhound, “Chinatown” bus services and several newer bus services. The “Chinatown” buses are called this because they are most often operated by Chinese tour companies and have a pick-up or drop-off point in the city’s Chinatown area. In the past few years, Greyhound introduced BoltBus, which runs between New York, Boston and Washington D.C. (and also stops in Philadelphia). MegaBus, another new service, also operates between major U.S. cities.
Cities Served: Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
Cost: BoltBus offers fares anywhere from a measly $1 each way up to about $25. MegaBus also has some rates for $5 or less, with others rising to more than $20 each way. The majority of the “Chinatown” buses cost $15 each way for travel between Boston and New York and about $20 each way for travel between New York and Washington D.C. Greyhound offers fares starting at $15 each way between Boston and New York or between New York and D.C., with advance purchase.
Travel Time: About four hours between Boston and New York in light traffic and about five hours between New York and Washington D.C.
- The price of the bus is less than you would pay in gas and tolls, and you won’t have to deal with parking once you get to your destination city.
- The “Chinatown” buses require no advance purchase, though many are sold out during rush-hour travel times.
- There are several companies to choose from in each destination city. Between New York and Boston: BoltBus, Fung Wah, Greyhound, Lucky Star, Boston Deluxe and MegaBus. Between New York and Washington D.C.: Greyhound, Washington Deluxe, BoltBus and MegaBus.
- With so many options, you’re unlikely to get shut out, even on busy travel days.Cons:
- Travelers are at the mercy of traffic and there may be limited onboard entertainment (although Greyhound has added electrical outlets and Wi-Fi to its new buses).
- Many employees of the “Chinatown” buses speak limited English.
- The “Chinatown” buses can be less reliable than other options, as breakdowns do occur.
To search fares on multiple bus companies at once, try.
Who: Somewhere between a bus and a limousine lies LimoLiner. The 28-passenger luxury shuttle has many amenities, particularly for the business traveler.
Cities Served: Boston and New York only.
Cost: $49 – $89 each way.
Travel Time: About four hours in light traffic.
- The service is chock-full of amenities including wireless Internet access at each seat, a pillow and blanket, complimentary meals, and onboard entertainment.
- Reclining leather seats make for a comfortable ride.Cons:
- Limited departures make the LimoLiner a little less convenient. There are three to five departures from each city per day, depending on which day of the week you travel. Click here for schedule.
Who: You, traveling in your car. (Under certain circumstances you may want to consider renting a car instead — if your own vehicle gets poor gas mileage, for example, or if you’re leasing your car and don’t want to put too many miles on it.)
Cities Served: Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and any destination in between.
Cost: Depends on your route and the gas mileage of your vehicle. Assuming you get 25 miles per gallon and gas costs $3 a gallon, you’ll pay about $53 to drive one way from D.C. to Boston. Don’t forget to add in tolls, parking expenses and rental fees (if applicable). You’ll also want to keep in mind the less tangible wear and tear on your vehicle.
Travel Time: About four hours in light traffic between Washington D.C. and New York or between New York and Boston.
- You can make your own travel schedule, departing whenever is convenient for you and stopping as necessary for food and bathroom breaks.
- The more people traveling in your group, the more cost-effective an option this is.
- If you need a car in your destination city, driving yourself is almost always cheaper than renting a vehicle once you get there.Cons:
- You’ll be at the mercy of traffic along your route, particularly if your trip coincides with rush hour in any of these cities.
- Parking downtown in any of these three cities can be inconvenient and expensive.
–written by Genevieve S. Brown; updated by Sarah Schlichter